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February 24, 2021


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Rachel Maizes

"I’ve learned that both too much isolation and too much togetherness will kill a wood fire. A good one needs space to breathe, for air to circulate, but if the pieces of wood are too spread out, they lose their cohesiveness and intensity; their heat dissipates and the fire starts to falter." What a lovely metaphor.


This story brings back memories of my parents cabin on Roberts Lake in northern Wisconsin. During the cold months, starting the wood fire was the first thing to do when you arrived at the cabin. Wait, going to the bathroom in the outhouse was the first thing to do. There was no indoor bathroom at the cabin. Drinking water had to be brought up from the spring near the shoreline. So many memories at the cabin. My parents sold the cabin in the early 2000s. The new owners tore down the early 20th century cabin (built 1930s or 40s, I think) and put up a modern lake place. I haven't been up to Roberts Lake since my parents sold the cabin. I'm afraid to see what the new owners have done to the place. My parents have driven up to Roberts Lake a few times since they sold it. Like most other new places on the lake, the trees surrounding the cabin were cleared out. Roberts Lake has changed a lot. So many folks clearing the trees and shrubs to get their view of the lake. With everyone clearing the land (and mowing grassy lawns), the lake experience begins to feel like a place you'd see in a more urban or suburban setting. I remember having to start the fire at the cabin. I would have smoke filling the cabin on numerous visits. Would have to air out the cabin for awhile. I always enjoyed watching the flames and hear the crackle of the fire.

Kathy Kaiser

Brent, your story of the Roberts Lake cabin echoes what happened to my family's cabin up near Crivitz. The lake evolved from having small cabins tucked into the woods to big houses and lawns, the pine trees cut down (so people had better views). With lawns came fertilizer and herbicides, and so the lake's water quality deteriorated. It's a sad story. I'm glad to have my cabin in Colorado, where there are still a lot of old and small cabins, although that's starting to change now, too.

Kathy Kaiser

thanks, Rachel. Like I said, I've learned a lot from building fires.

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